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1 jailer fired; another resigns
Morgan Co. inmate allegedly mistreated

By Seth Burkett 340-2355

One Morgan County jail officer lost his job and another resigned after allegedly mistreating an inmate, Sheriff Greg Bartlett said Thursday.

Bartlett said 23-year-old Jeremy Mitchem was handcuffed when the officers pushed him to the floor and dry-stunned him with a Taser on July 8.

Mitchem, who was arrested by a deputy in Hartselle on a public intoxication charge earlier that day, became combative during the booking process, Bartlett said.

"The inmate received some cuts and scrapes from the officers' handling, one of which was a busted lip when he was put to the floor," Bartlett said.

Warden Leon Bradley received a complaint from Mitchem the next morning.

Bartlett said he suspended both officers with pay and launched an investigation into the allegations of mistreatment, which included a review of videotapes by investigators and a third-party review by the Madison County Sheriff's Department.

"Both concluded that the resistance of the inmate and the fact that he was handcuffed did not warrant the amount of force used," Bartlett said.

Had Mitchem not been handcuffed, the officers' methods would have been warranted, Bartlett said.

According to Mitchem's booking record, Zachary J. Sparkman served as booking officer and Adam Phillips served as search officer while processing Mitchem into the jail.

Bartlett said he dismissed Sparkman following the investigation.

Bartlett said a second officer appealed his dismissal to the personnel board. Bartlett declined to reveal that officer's identity because he had not fired him.

"Before the (disciplinary) hearing process was finished, he resigned," Bartlett said.

Both Sparkman and Phillips were removed from the county payroll Aug. 21.

According to information obtained from human resources, Phillips went to the personnel board. The board expects to release its findings in the next 30 to 60 days.

"Both (officers) felt that they used the necessary force to handle the situation. But based on our investigation, we disagree," Bartlett said. "... They just made the wrong choice on how to handle that situation, and we can't have people making those wrong choices.

"We won't tolerate mistreatment of a prisoner," he said.

Neither Phillips nor Sparkman had phone numbers listed in their names.

Mitchem also did not have a listed phone number.

Following Mitchem's public intoxication arrest, Hartselle police charged him with third-degree burglary for allegedly breaking into Giovanni's restaurant on July 7, said police Sgt. Robby Robinson.

Bartlett said complaints from inmates about physical abuse from jailers are rare.

This is the third time in five years that a jailer has been dismissed for using improper force on an inmate, he said.

In 2005, a jailer was fired for spanking an inmate and another was fired for improperly using pepper spray, Bartlett said.

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